Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reviewers who suck

I'm doing a ton of research on Washington DC restaurants so I can more effectively edit some reviews for a forthcoming guide (I don't live there, so I rely heavily on the community of diners eager to blab - luckily, there's plenty). In the process, I have learned the following:

1. Washington restaurant critic Tom Sietsema likes everything (especially being recognized and then mentioning it in his reviews). He's less critical about food and wine than the bum in the park across from my house is about the government.

2. Yelpers are drooling idiots who boringly blab on about service in a way that makes them obviously not into the dining experience so much as having their collective dicks sucked by a waiter. No dick suckage? Bad review! Oh, was there food? We didn't notice.

3. For this reason, Yelp is notorious for having reviews so mixed that the site is completely obsolete. I find I prefer eGullet, much to my surprise (I wasn't expecting to like any of them). These people take the whole thing into consideration, and actually seem to have eaten outside of their homes once or twice. Rarely do you hear anyone say something retarded like "$20 seems very expensive for an entree, but whatever." Have you been in a bomb shelter since 1962?? Jesus, I hate Yelpers.

4. Chowhounders do nothing but ask other Chowhounders if they've been someplace yet. Seriously. Google a restaurant right now and see if that isn't the first 3 results that come up: "Has anyone been to _____ yet?" Useless.

5. The people that leave comments under Tom Sietsema's Washington Post reviews usually sound like they're writing from prison. Is it possible to be this zealous and stupid without stabbing yourself in the throat every time you brush your teeth? One exclamation point will do, thank you!!!!!

6. Frommer's: since when do people get paid to merely list what the menu offers? A critical opinion wouldn't kill you, you know.

7. On any menu, syrupy martinis with cutesy names are the bellwether to a terrible wine list. It's like how seagulls precede a storm. Or a school of dolphin. Which is it? Who cares, so long as it's not fucking Bogle.

8. Yelp reviews sound they're written by Baby Jane if she were let out of the asylum for a nice meal. I'm only this angry because a half dozen of the damned things pop up whenever I Google a restaurant. Can I change my preferences or put an obscene-content lock on that site or something?

9. This goes for everyone, on every site, blog, forum, etc: If I see one more person use "yummy" as a descriptor, I'm going to pay my hacker friends to send a virus to the site that plays a video of blue-footed boobies doing their silly mating dance, over and over again. I imagine some person with severe emotional retardation, petting their My Little Pony at the table, lovingly "feeding" it whatever they are eating. "See, Snowflake? Isn't this pork belly yummy? Let's go online and tell everyone!"

The Culinary Wasteland That Is The Texas Coast

I'm still here, fear not. I just took a few days to go camp out at the Gulf to see these guys. They're called Roseate Spoonbills and they are so marvelously ugly it's beautiful. There's a French word for that, I think.

We ate crawfish tails (I finally sucked out the brains - creamy and sweet! Now I know why Zombies are so mad for 'em), thick-shelled oysters that tasted not unpleasantly like harbor (cocktail sauce fine on Gulf oysters; ask me for some with your Duxburys and I will throw you out of the restaurant myself), and fried snapper (note to Fulton Beach, TX: Panko is a specific type of bread crumb, air-dried in the walls and of a certain delicate crispness - it's not a method of cooking, so you can't call it "panko-fried" if you rolled it in those Italian seasoned bread crumbs from the can... and I know you did.)
But our most charming meal was in the overweight-elderly capitol of the world: Port Aransas. It's a little Italian restaurant called Venetian Hotplate that, while serving Americanized conceits like tortelloni with ham and peas in a Parmesan cream sauce, does so with balance and tasty fresh herbs - and with menu items listed in Italian (usually a trustworthy cue). The glass list is, as expected, a teeny parking lot full of SUVs like La Crema, but the bottle selection has a few small-production pearls on it from the Boot.

Most of VH's success owes to its disarming preciousness - pots of flowers and garden tcotchkes out front, seashell-folded linen napkins on plates, a vaguely double-wide feeling to the structure. You simply don't feel critical here - it's like dining in someone's darkened living room - and this makes everything taste better, allows for some pleasure in the minutaie. And there's this sort of hilarious Renn Faire-Girl music quietly playing, like Enigma and Lorena McKennitt.

Anyway, here it is. If you're down that way, you're probably dying for some decent food.
Anything the Texas coast offers, Mexico and Louisiana are doing better. Please, tell me if I'm wrong, because we plan to go back in summer to see the spoonbills mate. Apparently, they offer each other straw and twigs with their enormous flat beaks. I can think of nothing in the world I want to see more.